In 2015 I travelled to New Zealand and Indonesia, an incredible trip which led to the start of this blog. To cut the 24-hour flight to Auckland in half we decided to take 48 hours off in the city where we had to transfer, Kuala Lumpur. As it turned out, 48 hours were enough, Southeast Asian cities being what they are – noisy, busy and rather smelly – but Kuala Lumpur was well worth a visit nonetheless, presenting a unique mixture of different religions, architecture styles and cuisines.
Given that there’s only one month the Fins can properly call ‘summer’, it might be a bit of a stretch to call Suomenlinna, a former military bastion just off the coast of Helsinki, a little holiday paradise. Yet there was still plenty to see when I visited there in April earlier this year, though it was clear that its inhabitants, museums and shops were awaiting the warmer weather and the influx of tourists which then still seemed a long way off.
While on holiday in Yorkshire last month, my friends and I decided to go up to Newcastle for the day. I didn’t know much about the city, except that it was at the heart of the industrial revolution in Britain and that it’s where Dire Straits singer Mark Knopfler is from. In fact, while making my way to Yorkshire from Wales – where I started out, visiting friends – I found myself on a whistle-stop tour through the north of England, passing through Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds before ending up in York. My impression of these cities was all too brief: driving through Birmingham, which was heavily bombed during the war, left me with the impression of a hodgepodge of soot-stained red brick buildings with garish postwar structures planted here and there. Newcastle, however, surprised me: I had expected more of the same. But the moment we passed that magnificent sculpture on the motorway, the Angel of the North, which personifies better than anything the north’s industrial charm, and drove into the city with a view of Newcastle’s seven bridges curving over the river Tyne, I knew we were in for something different.
As the temperatures are finally consistently running into the high twenties Celsius here, it’s funny to think that only about two months ago I was walking around in Riga in a snowstorm – granted, one that only lasted a day. We went out then, on Easter Sunday, thinking we might do some sightseeing, but ended up frantically hunting around for a coffee place to take shelter in. And as we sat sipping a cappuccino and nibbling on a poppy-seed doughnut at the foot of an imposing Russian orthodox church – the only proper ‘high rise’ in the centre of Riga, really – the sun came out and the snow stopped. Instantly the streets were filled with people, where only an hour before only a few arctic explorers like ourselves could be seen plodding along. Happily, the following days were filled with sunshine, and on the day we left, I carried my coat draped over my arm – it was that warm.
As opposed to the blink-and-you-miss-it blue twenty minutes we usually get here in the Netherlands — one of the best times of day for photographers, when the sun has just set and the combination of electric night lights and the still luminous sky makes for the most beautiful pictures — Helsinki was exceedingly generous with its opportunities for nighttime photography. Not only did the skies become a deeper and deeper blue much more gradually, the exceedingly modern architecture of the city almost gave it a sci-fi feel. Apparently Helsinki is famous for its starry nights, but sadly we didn’t witness any, although the clouds made for some spectacular skies as well.
Last week I returned from a twelve-day holiday in the northeast of Europe, where I’d never been before. We flew to Helsinki, where we spent a few days; from there, we took the train to St. Petersburg; and finally, we took a night bus to Riga, from where we flew back home. It was a wonderful trip, presenting us with a side of Europe I’d never seen before.
A visit to Amsterdam is always a treat – whenever I’m down there for the day I seem to soak up the art, architecture, exhilaration, diversity and history of the city like a sponge. Here is a collection of snapshots I took during various visits in the past few months.